The long and exhaustive search the New York Mets have made this off-season for a right-handed hitting outfielder has come up all but empty. One by one, guys like Ryan Ludwick, Torii Hunter and Cody Ross have signed elsewhere without giving much consideration to the Mets. Even Scott Haiston, who spent the last two seasons in New York, ended up signing elsewhere after appearing to be the Mets fallback option. However, while the Mets may have failed to bring in a big-money free agent to play the outfield, the addition of veteran Marlon Byrd on a minor league contract is an under-the-radar move that could have a big impact.
Byrd is coming off a rough year in which he hit just .210 with one home run and nine RBI’s for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs before testing positive for a banned substance, which ended his season. However, Byrd has had a long career of steady production, and he still might have something left in the tank, even if he’s only playing a part-time role. Bringing Byrd in on a minor league contract will give him all the motivation he needs to perform well in spring training, win a spot on the team and become a contributor to the Mets cause in 2013.
Giving a shot to a guy like Byrd works not only because it is a low-risk signing, but also because Byrd fits what the Mets’ need. He is a right-handed outfielder, which the Mets desperately need, as their three projected outfield starters are all left-handed batters. Byrd is also a versatile player defensively, as he is still capable of being an average defensive centerfielder, and an above-average corner outfielder defensively, which means he could fit in as a starting centerfielder, a platoon player in centerfield, or a fourth outfielder. Finally, as a veteran, Byrd would be comfortable and trustworthy coming off the bench, a role that would best be filled by a veteran on a young Mets team.
Signing Byrd to a minor league contract wasn’t the flashiest move Mets general manager Sandy Alderson could have made to address the Mets needs in the outfield. But Byrd has helped a lot of teams in his career, and there’s no reason why he can’t help the Mets as well. It’s a low-risk deal, which has a real chance of paying off.